“I will never forget…”

I will never forget how you made me feel.

I spent days before the first day of school anxious, planning every move I’d make. I’d gone to private school for the past six years, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

“Be optimistic Syd, you’ll be fine.”

Everyone around me knew I was an 11-year-old ball of anxiety pending implosion. I fought tears every day of my life. The voices in my head were tyrants who ruled my world.

That morning in September was full of excitement. Of course I didn’t sleep the night before, and I mean, I practically slept in my “first day of school” outfit.

I was ready to be the new kid.

I was ready to finally go to school with the friends I grew up going to summer camp with and everyone I played soccer with on the town team.

This was my big break.

Other than my 10 or 15 “friends,” no one had seen me before. No one knew my name.

Not even you.

My neighbors and I all walked to the end of our street that morning, arm in arm. Our moms followed, taking pictures of this moment they’d never forget. None of us would forget this.

Especially me.

This would be my first time riding the bus to school. My first time picking my own clothes, rather than my dismal khakis and maroon polo every day.

So many firsts.

I remember exactly what I was wearing; a blue Aeropostale zip-up hoodie with a purple flannel underneath, my jean shorts that went down to my knees. I thought I looked great! I felt so much confidence and pride stepping onto that bus.

We all walked to the back, deciding to sit three to a seat because I was so nervous.

“You’ve got this Syd, you’ll do great!”

Then I heard your voice.

“Only fags wear plaid.”

“What’s a fag?” I asked my childhood best friends who squished me into the seat.

“Oh…well…don’t worry about it. It’s a bundle of sticks!”

To this day, the shame I felt burns inside of me.

Why did you think that was okay? So what if I’m gay, did it make you feel better to call me out? Did you feel proud of yourself in front of all your friends?

I will never forget how you made me feel.

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